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August 10, 2011

Planning commission grants design approval for Martha Jefferson reuse

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has endorsed a conceptual design for the redevelopment of the old Martha Jefferson Hospital on Locust Avenue to accommodate a new tenant.  

“I like what I see in terms of redevelopment of the design of the building,” said commissioner Kurt Keesecker.

A rendering of the new entrance to be built by Octagon Partners for the new CFA facility

Octagon Partners is renovating the complex for eventual occupation by the CFA Institute, which will relocate from the University of Virginia’s Fontaine Research Park.

The CFA is a global association for investment professionals with more than 350 employees in the region. The company will spend $24.5 million to renovate the building.

The new 138,000-square-foot facility will double the CFA’s existing space, which is currently spread throughout several locations in the county.

Under the plans, a large portion of the existing building as well as the parking deck will be torn down. The existing emergency room entrance will also be demolished.

The historic Patterson Wing will not be altered, and the Rucker Wing will be incorporated into the new design. A new front entrance will be built as part of the redesign.

The commission reviewed the redevelopment design in its capacity as the Entrance Corridor Review board.  

Ellen Wagner, the president of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association, said she wanted the Board of Architectural Review to have jurisdiction over design approval rather than the planning commission.

“We’re concerned in this case that the renderings do not represent the size and scale of the [renovations],” Wagner said. “We all want the best possible development which has the potential to be a beautiful contribution to the city.”

Wagner said the neighborhood welcomes the arrival of CFA, but feels there should be special attention paid to the impact the renovations will have on the community.

During the discussion, commissioner Michael Osteen said he did not have enough information to make a decision.

“We have a great document to start a preliminary discussion, but it is inadequate for a certificate of appropriateness,” Osteen said. At one point, it appeared the commission was going to vote on a motion to deny the certificate of appropriateness.  

However, J.P. Williamson of Octagon Partners said he wanted to be able to move forward with the redevelopment for his client.

“We are changing the land use from a hospital to a Class A office building. That is a use allowed by the zoning, and we want to move forward. I don’t want to get bogged down into the details forever,” Williamson said.



The commission voted 4-0 to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition of the parking deck, as well as the general layout of the redeveloped building.

However, Williamson will need to return to the Planning Commission for approval of a detailed landscape plan and a lighting plan, as well as detailed images of how material in the different sections of the building will fit together.

Williamson said the total space in the building will be around 150,000 square feet, but future tenants for the remainder of the building have not yet been identified.

Renovations will begin soon after Martha Jefferson transfers to its new location on Pantops in Albemarle County later this month.

New commissioner Natasha Sienitsky recused herself from the discussion because of a personal relationship with the applicant. Commissioners Dan Rosensweig and John Santoski were absent.

The commission also endorsed the design of the new city fire station that will be built on Fontaine Avenue. The commission previously approved a design in October 2009, but the fire department decided to purchase an adjoining property to make room for underground parking for 32 cars.

The final site plan for the fire station is still under review by city staff. Mike Mollica in the city’s facilities development office said he hoped the project could be advertised for construction bids next week.

In other news, Genevieve Keller has been elected chair of the city Planning Commission.

Keller is an architectural historian and preservation planner who was first appointed to the commission in October 2007. She has been vice chair since September 2009.

 Dan Rosensweig was elected as vice chair.


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